How Clay Pigeon Shooting is Teaching Me Life Lessons

Annie Oakley famously said, “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it.”   Let’s be honest, I am not the first person you imagine spending Sunday afternoons with a shotgun in hand.

It Doesn’t Always Have to Be About Being Perfect

Like many women, I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect.” Who doesn’t right? And, when I wasn’t good at something, I simply quit.  Playing sports was one of them. Instead, I focused on things that I knew I could 

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do, which is why I focused less on physical activities and more on things like – Yearbook Club and Model United Nations in High School and writing for the newspaper in college. I knew I could be successful. In my 20s and 30s, I got a little more adventurous, but still continued to struggle with being perfect.

When I turned 40, I decided that after all these years something had to change. Fearing failure was no longer option and I needed to find something to help me overcome this challenge.

When my boyfriend and a couple of other friends decided to give clay shooting a shot, I tagged along with the idea not knowing what to expect. On a Sunday afternoon, we rolled up to
Cavalier Sporting Clays in Montpelier, Virginia. Montpelier is a lovely town once home to James and Dolly Madison.

Having never held a shotgun before,  Henry Baskerville, the club’s program director and chief instructor, provided me with a courtesy lesson. Shooting a .410 shotgun I shot a few clays  with the assistance of Henry,  but boy did it feel AMAZING to see the clays burst in smoke.   Each Sunday, we found ourselves at Cavalier Sporting Clays and for those first few weeks, I struggled hitting the pigeons (and at times was a little frustrated), but one day, it clicked with me. All of a sudden I was hitting more and more of them. To gain confidence, I spent time hitting ones that I knew I had a better a chance of hitting rather than ones outside of my comfort zone.  And for the first time, I found a sport I loved

5 Lessons I have Learned

  • Keep both eyes opened –  When I first started shooting, I always closed one of my eyes before I took a shot.  It wasn’t until recently that I learned from  Kate Ahnstrom,  Master Instructor at Cavalier Sporting Clays & Paragon Professional Associate  ( and now great friend) that you never shoot with one eye. You don’t close one eye to focus in life so why do it shooting. Strategize first then shoot.  You’ll be more confident in making that shot.
  • Don’t fear instruction.  When someone tells me what I am doing wrong, I have a habit of trying focus on that one aspect rather than looking at how to improve myself holistically. During a recent shooting lesson with Ahnstrom, rather than “telling” you what was causing me to miss that clay, she helped me think about what I could to adjust my form and breaking strategy.  So when it came to nailing that one fast clay, I could nail it.  
  • It’s empowering.  There’s nothing better than hitting one of those clays and knowing before you do it, is even better.
  • The sense of fear is starting to fade. As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge I faced was with myself and my sense of failure. I never let failure discourage me to fulfill my professional dreams.  Clay pigeon shooting has taught me that. So, I miss a shot or two,  It must be because I am not following the process that will enable me to hit that clay.
  • It’s not about being perfect. Clay pigeon shooting is something that Bryan and I do together and it’s fun. It’s fun going out with our friends, hitting a bunch of clays and having a good time.  

It’s Been Nice to Discover the Country Girl in Me

Shooting clays has taught me to be adventurous. I still have some ways to go, but life is a journey and shooting is one of the paths that I am taking.  And while I still love putting on my favorite pumps and hitting the town, I ram starting to like the country girl side of me.

Interested in trying sport clay shooting or taking a private lesson? Visit Cavalier Sporting Clays.

Photo credit – Cavalier Sporting Clays

Sher in the City – Then and Now

cropped-sherinthecity002.jpgTen years ago, I returned to Washington DC after spending five years in my hometown of Charleston, SC.  Single and excited to be back in the city, I chose to live in the trendy Arlington neighborhood  of Shirlington, and continued pursuing my career in public relations and writing. And, so  – Sher in the City was born.

As stated in the about section of the blog (which btw, is a little bit outdated), Sher in the City served as a platform for me to share my adventures, as well as my passion for food, wine and travel –which I did.

What Happened to Sher in the City

Did the adventures end? Did the passion for all loved at 30 change over the years? Not exactly. But, my passion for writing did.  Many writers experience something called “writer’s block” at some point. Even though I had all these things that I wanted to write about – when it came to actually writing them – well, I just couldn’t. So, I decided to take a break, a long break.

Is Sher in the City Still Relevant?

When I decided to launch Sher in the City, I was  in my early 30s and single. Whether it was catching up with friends over mimosas at Sunday  brunch or  dining at on U Street, I found myself in the District several times a week.

15193494_10157793393320057_3452394494297694948_nAnd while I still enjoy meandering through the city streets of District and attending shows at the Kennedy Center often, I am going through my own revitalization personally.

For years, the cosmopolitan side of me was “comfortable.” But, now at 40,  no longer alone, I am tapping outside my comfort zone like:

  • Experiencing life beyond the city like hiking in Acadia National Park in Maine
  • Breaking a board doing a flying side kick at Taekwondo
  •  Staying grounded
  • And most importantly, enjoying what I have today versus what life maybe years from now 

So What Can Readers Expect Now?

Name change? Possibly. But for now, I want to take Sher in the City in a different direction, and hope that my experiences will inspire you, my readers, to step out of your comfort zones.

I hope you’ll  stick around.  I am eager to start sharing them with you.

Finding Serenity in Maine

Published on theDCLadies.com and BindiandJeans.com

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Over the last decade, I have become somewhat of a city girl. I love attending the ballet at the Kennedy Center, brunch on 14th street, and window shopping through Old Town Alexandria with a chai tea latte from Starbucks. It’s my kinda of fun.

But, like any city person, I get tired of the fast-paced lifestyle, traffic, the rudeness and the routine of it all.

So, when my boyfriend and I were invited this fall to join his parents for a week-long vacation in Southwest Harbor, Maine, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

 

Discovering Maine. Discovering Me.

If I were to define our trip in a short quote, I’d re-quote Henry David Thoreau:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

When many of think of Maine, we tend to think about the fall foliage, Bar Harbor, New England architecture and lobster (at least that’s what comes to mind for me!), but Maine is much more.  There is a much more to the state–there is a quieter,much more serene side, where I got out of my comfort zone and experienced the region’s natural beauty.

Hiking in Acadia National Park 

I never went hiking as a kid except for maybe one time. My first and maybe only hiking experience was when we were living in Okinawa, Japan. My father, brother and I joined a family friend for rather short hike when my brother nearly got stung by a banana spider (a venomous spider indigenous to the island).

On my first trip to Maine, I was very hesitant about doing moderate hikes. I was, frankly a bit scared. But, on this trip, I decided it was time to challenge myself by taking on a moderate hike that required some climbing to Bubble Rock.  

Bubble Rock is most probably the state’s most famous rock. Why, you may ask? Moved by glaciers thousands of years ago, Bubble rock sits on the eastern edge of the summit of South Bubble, which is sits at a 768-foot peak.

The climb to Bubble Rock was tough. During the course of climb, we found ourselves climbing large rocks and squeezing our way through tough spots (you didn’t know if you could feet your foot in some places).  I also found myself needing a boost at one spot, but the end was worth it!

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Acadia, Flying Mountain and Beech Mountain — Challenging Hikes with Immaculate Views at the End

After Bubble Rock, we completed several other hikes–Beech Mountain, Flying Mountain and Acadia Mountain. Each trail had its own challenges, but you couldn’t beat the views at the top:

beech mountain

 From Fire Tower itself, you  can see breathtaking views of the area, including Somes Sound, Cadillac Mountain and the Cranberry Islands.

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 Our last day in Maine, we started it with a hike up Acadia Mountain.

Lobster! Lobster!

It’s true, you can’t say you’ve experienced Maine unless you’ve had your share of lobster. Lobster fishing is a way of life for many people who live off of Maine’s coast. It’s a family business that goes back generations.

We learned about Maine’s lobstering industry during a boat tour to the Cranberry Isles. Cranberry Isles consists of several islands –Great Cranberry Island, Little Cranberry Island, Sutton Island, Bear Island and Baker Island.

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To get to Great Cranberry Island, you need to take a ferry or go on a boat tour, which leaves from Northwest Harbor.

According to the ranger tour, Maine has instituted conservation practices to ensure that the region’s lobsters continue to thrive.

Lobster traps are designed to capture a specific size. If the lobster is too small, it has the ability to get out or it’s thrown back into the water. Female lobsters with eggs are also thrown back into the water.

“The ones caught are the dumb ones, or the ones that happen to get in when the lobster trap is pulled up,” explained the ranger.

From boiled lobster to lobster rolls to lobster macaroni and cheese, we enjoyed our share of lobster.

If you’re looking to just enjoy boiled lobster, check out Thurston’s Lobster Pound. You can enjoy your lobster with your pick of slides and a breathtaking view of Bass Harbor.

 

DSCN1194Thurston’s Lobster Pound

 

For the best lobster stew and lobster mac and cheese, it’s the Terrace Grille at the Bar Harbor Inn. You can’t go wrong with either. During the dinner hour, you’ll also enjoy a blueberry cornbread muffin fresh from the oven.

We enjoyed dining at a number of great places during the week, but if I would have to pick my favorite dish of the week, it would be lobster mac and cheese at the Terrace Grille!

Lessons Learned

Thoreau’s quote captured everything I felt and experienced on this trip.  While hikes could be a bit tough for me at times and with some small injuries, it wasn’t just the breathtaking views I saw, I saw myself in a whole new light.

Other Things to Do When Visiting Acadia National Park and Surroundings:

 

 

How I Overcame the Diva in Me (Going Camping in the Backwoods)

There’s a wonderful feeling about being in a healthy relationship–having dinner together, the fun text messages, movie nights, yada yada yada. But, I will say, there is something special about doing something completely outside of your comfort zone with someone you completely trust. For me, that was  4×4 driving and backwoods camping. Yeah, that’s right– camping.

For me outdoors activities usually involved window shopping in Georgetown, enjoying drinks on the harbor or an escapade to one of Virginia’s fine wineries, but not camping.   That is until I joined my boyfriend and friends on an adventure in George Washington National Forest (just on the border of Virginia and West Virginia) for some mountain driving and camping.

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I had never been camping. It probably had to do with the fact that my mother wasn’t a fan of it. She enjoyed the outdoors, but at the end of the day, she wanted a nice bed and shower. I inherited that gene and many others! So, when my boyfriend asked me if I’d be up for the adventure, I said “yes” because when does one get to do something like this.

I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous spending a night in a forest. The idea of sleeping with creatures and no bathroom sounded appalling. Did I also mention that it was cold?  But, those fears seemed to go away when I had  views like this:

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It was a great adventure for me and something that I can say I’ve done. Would I do it again? Yes. I don’t know if it’s something I could do on a monthly basis, but I could do it again, and next time, I’ll be sure to bring warmer clothes!

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For those of you like me who embrace your “Divaness,” once in awhile,  exchange it for a pair of sneakers and jeans and enjoy roughing it. It’s worth it!

 

Experiencing Chicago

Guest Blogger Kendra Thornton

This is part of a series of travel articles composed by myself and Kendra Thornton of Thornton Public Relations

Chi Boat TourTo me, Chicago is the best place to be. I have lived in this town my entire life, but I speak from experience. I have traveled around the world most of my life. I have visited Hong Kong, New York City, Jamaica and many other places. However, Chicago is the city that offers so much. The fact of the matter is that there are many sites to visit.

When in Chicago, one of the best sites to see is the Michigan Avenue Bridge. This bridge, which crosses over the Chicago River, gives visitors and residents a unique look at the city and various skyscrapers. Although some historic bridges are plain, the Michigan Avenue Bridge features a number of memorable sculptures that have lasted the test of time. This bridge has hosted numerous engagement and wedding photos.

Another fantastic site, which is not nearly as old as the Michigan Avenue Bridge, is Millennium Park. This site was originally a place for waste, but former mayor Richard Daley and the city council came together and created a park to be enjoyed by citizens and guests. Located in the downtown district, people can enjoy a break from busy activities. The landscaping is done perfectly, and there are many places to explore. Furthermore, there are activities and programs for people of all ages.

Finding a place to stay in Chicago is nearly as important as deciding what to do and where to go. The options for hotels are nearly limitless, and there are plenty of places around the city to stay. One could stay in downtown Chicago, and see all the lights and the action. Or, one may prefer a historic hotel, like one that Al Capone once frequented.Chicago Beach

When I travel around the United States, I like to visit diners. A favorite one in Chicago is Glenn’s Diner. This restaurant, which is off of West Montrose, has many great dishes that are served daily. One of the reasons that I love Glenn’s Diner is that is serves breakfast throughout the entire day. This enables me to come when I want to, and I do not have to worry about whether I will be able to have breakfast or not. Besides breakfast, Glenn’s Diner has some delicious seafood and food combinations that may come across as unique. Still, all of the food is delicious. In fact, Glenn’s Diner is known for serving a nice variety of cereals.

Stop by for a night or a week, and be amazed at the great opportunities and adventures that are awaiting all who visit. Do not miss out on an amazing experience.

Washington DC: Neighborhoods to Check Out Beyond the National Mall

This is part of a series of travel articles composed by myself and Kendra Thornton of Thornton Public Relations

sherinthecity059I moved to Washington D.C. seven years ago from Charleston, South Carolina, in need of a life change.  When an opportunity dropped in my lap to work for a national organization, I said yes, because after years of living in Charleston, I was ready to leave the small city for a more cosmopolitan life, and the truth is, something always fascinated me about our nation’s capital.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Charleston, it’s my hometown, but I’ve come to calling D.C. now home.   When many people think about D.C. the first things that come to mind are the museums on the National Mall, the memorials, the capital and of course, the White House. But, what makes D.C. so unique are the neighborhoods beyond the Mall within the city and outside of it.

14th Street/ U Street Corridor

In a city, where most people tend to wear formal black and gray business suits, you may be surprised that there is a hipness and coolness to our city. In my opinion, it has some of the same characteristics of New York City’s meat packing district. A mix of boutiques, restaurants, bars and art galleries, this area tends to draw more locals then tourists.    Some of my favorite places include:

  • Cork Restaurant and Wine Bar: There is something cozy about this restaurant.  Maybe it’s the brick walls combined with the low lights, but the ambiance paired with the restaurant’s exquisite wine list and menu makes it the perfect place for a girls’ night out or a fun date night!
  • Estadios:  One of two popular Spanish tapas places on the street, this is a fun place to hang out. The menu features an array of Spanish inspired dishes. My favorite dish—the grilled octopus paired with potato caper salad.
  • Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: This is another popular place for locals. You’ll find Hill staffers enjoying happy hour here. It’s got a casual vibe compared to other places in the district.
  • Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar: a new restaurant to enter the scene,  is another Spanish restaurant just a few blocks away from Estadios. My top favorites—the Spinach-Chickpea Cazuela and the Wild Mushroom & Leek Risotto are delicious!

DuPont Circle

DuPont Circle is another favorite neighborhood. You can spend an afternoon meandering through the neighborhood, taking in the architecture, stopping in the shops or enjoying a meal or drinks somewhere.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you may want to:

  • Spend a couple of hours at the Phillips Collection: The museum is a privately owned museum featuring a variety of art collections.  The famous Renoir painting, “Luncheon at the Boating Party,” has its own special place in the museum. The Phillips also features traveling exhibits of some of the world’s most renowned artists like Van Gogh and Degas.
  • Take a docent led tour of the Anderson House. One of the city’s most exquisite mansions, the mansion served as the winter residence of Larz Anderson, an American diplomat, and his wife, Isabel, an author and benefactress.  The home was the setting for many diplomatic affairs, performances and galas. During the docent-led tour, you will be transported back the area.
  • Enjoy drinks at Circa after a day of meandering.  Perfectly located in the heart of DuPont Circle, you can enjoy a drink and some appetizers after a day of wandering. Another great place is Kramers Books & Afterwords Café.

Old Town Alexandria

If you’re looking to spend an afternoon outside the city, a fun area to check out is Old Town Alexandria. Located off the George Washington sherinthecity110Parkway or off the Metro, Old Town Alexandra offers something for anyone in the family to enjoy.  In addition to strolling through some of the local shops, you can:

  • Enjoy ice cream on a warm summer day or a nice cup of coffee at the harbor that overlooks the Potomac River.
  • Check out the Torpedo Factory.  The building features exhibits and galleries of local artists’ work.
  • Sip some wine and enjoy some appetizers at Grape & Bean. The local wine bar also hosts some fabulous events.  They’re not your typical wine events at all!
  • Take in some music at the Piano Bar at the Morrison House especially if you’re a fan of Sinatra and Dean Martin. You’ll definitely dig this place.

Whether you live in the DC Metro area or are a tourist, try to check out places beyond the mall. DC is filled with some pretty neat neighborhoods.  They may surprise you and you’ll come to a realization that DC isn’t just a political city filled only with men and women in suits.

My Summer in DC

By: Guest Blogger Sapna Bakshi

Over the last three weeks I have been spending time with my fabulous aunt in what  I think is the most exciting city in the country, Washington DC. I had so much fun going to all the museums,trying new foods, spending time with my aunt and  my aunt’s dog, Nikki , and also being in an office environment. After this trip to  DC, I have decided to make it a tradition to come every summer.

Going to the museums in DC combined two of my favorite subjects, art and history.   The Sackler Freer Aunt and I at White HouseGallery and The Phillips Collections have  unique pieces of art that really caught my eye, being an avid painter myself. My favorites were the impressionists’ works,    there soft lines and everyday concepts give the illusion that you’re actually in the painting. Ford’s Theatre and the Museum of American History were also really interesting and lots of fun to visit. I loved seeing the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner and also the museum underneath Ford’s Theatre.

Mac and CheeseOne of favorites parts of DC would have to be the food, there are so many different types of food and cuisines to explore. One of my favorite restaurants was Le Pain Quotidien.  I had a Tartine( open face sandwich) with prosciutto, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and basil oil. I really loved the combination of the prosciutto and the mozzarella ,it was so good. Another one of my favorite restaurants was Zantinya. I’m not a huge fan of brussel sprouts, but the brussel sprouts at Zantinya were incredible. My all time favorite restaurant  had to be Cheesetique, their Mac and Cheese is to die for.

Now my favorite part about coming to DC would have to be spending time with my aunt and her dog, Nikki. I had so Nikkimuch roaming around DC and Arlington with them. Coming home and seeing Nikki makes your day so much brighter and better. We have become like sisters; she is such a delight to have around and I will miss her so much. My aunt is the best; she is so much fun to hang out with. She is like my best friend, we watch movies together, make food together, play with Nikki, shop, and pretty much everything else you would do with your closest friend.

Getting to intern at my aunt’s office was such a fun experience. I have learned so much about being in a work environment and web development. At first, I was overwhelmed by all the new information, but after my first week I was very comfortable in my aunt’s office.I was editing blogs,researching articles, working with analytics and so much more. I worked on my grammar, computer skills and communication. I will definitely be taking these skills and using them in school.

In DCI feel very proud of myself after this trip, I have learned so much and done so much. I’ve experienced different cultures, different people and different places. If I had to describe this trip in one word I would say thankful. Without my family I would not have been able to have such a wonderful experience, and without my new friends I would not have been able to learn so much.